TOP THINGS TO DO IN MAJULI RIVER ISLAND – SOLO BUDGET TRIP TO OFFBEAT ASSAM
What are the top things to do in Majuli, the largest river island of the world? Where to stay in Majuli? Is Majuli vegan friendly? What is the best time to visit Majuli? This travel blog answers all these questions and more.
The moment I stepped on the soil of Majuli island, it made me fall head over heels in love with it. It’s a pity that I saw more foreigners (European) than Indian travelers in Majuli. In fact I was the only Indian staying in the home-stay out of 10 plus guests who were staying there at that time. It is a hidden paradise, to say the least.
I HAD LEFT Dibrugarh late night on a very comfortable bus (Rs. 150 one way). It passed through Sivasagar. I even caught a fleeting glimpse of the Rangghar. I was tempted to get down but my focus was Majuli. To reach Majuli, I first planned to reach Jorhat. Visiting the Gibbon Sanctuary was also on my agenda. It is a day trip from Jorhat.
TRAVEL HORRORS: I WAS ALMOST HOMELESS IN JORHAT
To my horror, I reached Jorhat at 12 a.m. Not a single soul was visible on road. The street lights looked eerie and haunted. I HAD NO IDEA WHERE I WAS STAYING. I NEVER BOOK BEFORE TRAVEL UNLESS I AM TRAVELING WITH PARENTS. But this was a budget and solo trip. I mostly go with the flow on such trips. I continued walking for few kilometers in well lit empty roads. A hotel in far distance did catch my attention but it looked too expensive for a backpacker like me. I walked some more and saw the firt humans. Those were auto rickshaw guys. They did notice me. I ignored and kept walking keeping my eyes down but tracking them from the corner of my eyes. A little more walking and I saw some light in the basement of a tall building.
I knocked at the basement door, expecting for a blank reply. To my relief, a man opened the door for me. It was a hotel. I asked at the reception. “Do you have a single room with attached bathroom? I need for 1 day.” By this time I was even willing to stretch my budget. “No single rooms available. A double room is available for 1 crore rupee a night!”Of course it did not fit my budget. I enquired more and found a small room with common bathroom just next to it for only Rs. 400 a night. Just what I wanted! I checked in and crashed on the bed.
THE FERRY RIDE FROM NIMATI GHAT NEAR JORHAT TO MAJULI ISLAND – OFFBEAT ASSAM
As I returned from the Gibbon Sanctuary, on the same day, I arrived at Majuli via Jorhat. I reached Jorhat at around 2 pm. I did not have lunch. All I had was 2 plates (nice) pani poori from Jorhat market. I had already checked out from the hotel before heading out to the Gibbon Sanctuary. I had submitted my Columbia backpack in the morning at the reception counter so that I do not have to pay Rs. 400 more.
HOW TO REACH MAJULI FROM JORHAT VIA NIMATI GHAT ON A BUDGET: OFFBEAT ASSAM
I got the shared Magic van right outside my hotel. For Rs. 30 it helped me reach Nimati Ghat via picturesque route in 45 minutes. I saw lovely homes, abundant greenery and my first glimpse of Sattras. The magic van was full but I did not feel suffocated or uncomfortable. My backpack was kept in the storage space behind the van. It was much easier to reach Nimati Ghat from Jorhat than I had imagined. Please see attached time table and plan your exit from Jorhat accordingly.
TOP PLACES TO SEE IN MAJULI ISLAND – OFFBEAT ASSAM
I hated myself for spending just 3 days in Majuli. Well, it was technically just 1 day. On day 1, I arrived just before sun set. On day 2, I explored Majuli from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. I checked out the early morning on day 3. I badly wanted to do so many things but picked the best I could do in 7 hours. I even managed to wash and dry my clothes here. It got dirty as I was on a long term travel.
SOUL WINDOW TIP: I washed the clothes in the night as soon as I checked in. It allowed more time for the clothes to dry. On my travel, whether luxury or backpacking, I always carry light, quick dry clothes. The shirts and pants by Columbia sportswear helped me a lot during my 2 months long trip in North East India. It dries really fast. In fact, when I did river rafting in the scenic river of Dambuk in Arunachal Pradesh, I did not even need to change my pants. It dried up as I walked after the water rafting. So, always pack wisely when you travel.
GO SATTRA HOPPING IN MAJULI ISLAND – OFFBEAT ASSAM
The Vaishnavite Sattras of Majuli has a mystical aura to it. I had no idea that Sattras was not exclusive to Majuli. As I travelled to many laces in Assam, I learned later that Sattras are common all over Assam. I saw many Sattras as I travelled to other places in Assam such as Dibrugarh, Guwahati, Jorhat, Gibbon Sanctuary etc on my 2 month long first trip to North East India.
It is an alternative niche religion followed widely in this part of India. I was lucky when I arrived as a pooja was going on in the Sattra. Chanting of mantra and musical instruments filled the large hall of the sattra. The monks participated sincerely, unperturbed by the presence of the only outsider, me! 2 monks who were standing, sang and played the music as other monks sat on one corner with Prasad made up of moong daal. The restless Pigeons kept changing their location, as if dancing to the tunes.
DO NOT MISS THE SATTRIYA DANCE IN MAJULI ISLAND – OFFBEAT ASSAM
It was my lucky day. The monks had just started dancing when I arrived at Kamlabari Sattriya. The dance was high on energy and a fast paced one.
The energy was contrary to the easy going pace of the calm rituals and ceremonies and the tranquil atmosphere of Sattras I had experienced since morning. Dressed in white, the all men team of monk sang and danced in the hall of Sattra, as the audience watched, gobsmacked!
I also met a local girl who was playing video games as I was leaving. I thought that only male monks reside in Sattra. So the presence of a female child in Sattra took me by surprise. My guide told me that many there are sattras for families as well.
My understanding of Sattra started getting better as I visited one more Sattra. A visit to this Sattra broke one more misconception. I thought that only celibate single males can become monks here. Mitu told me that this Sattra was exclusive for families. The families lived and practiced the religion here as contrary to only males. Mitu and his family also stayed at one of the homes here. I visited his austere home where sister in law of Mitu served me piping hot tea and cookies, just walking distance away from Sattra.
VISIT A SCHOOL IN MAJULI ISLAND – OFFBEAT ASSAM
I was not very keen when Mitu took me for a visit to a school in Majuli. Everyone knows that I am not too fond of kids (Sorry kids, if you are reading this!). It was still a unique experience to visit a local school in Majuli. I enjoyed going through the bulletin boards, staff room, various models and charts which talked about science or the larger than life Demi God of Assam, late Bhupen Hazarika ji.
I also enjoyed visiting different classrooms. After visiting the classroom for toddlers, I visited the class rooms of teenagers. They were goofing around and making noise when I entered the class room. They all fell silent together and looked at me collectively as if I had just landed from Jupiter.
I talked to some kids and bid them adieu with a smile on my lips. This is how I like human kids- from a distance and for few minutes. Yes, I am Sri Devi from Bollywood blockbuster Mr. India!
VISIT A REAL MISHING VILLAGE IN MAJULI ISLAND – OFFBEAT ASSAM
I did not want to leave the Mishing village. Manjeet, the owner of the homestay where I stayed at, also belonged to the Mishing tribe. He told me that Mishing people are originally from Tibet. (Who would have thought!).
They kept settling at different locations time and again, leaving the British clueless during the awful Raj era when the British plundered and looted across not only India but many other countries. They named the tribe as Missing which later became Mishing. The tribe was originally called Miri, but Manjeet told me that Mishing people do not like it if you address them as Miri. They still have a Raj hangover.
INDULGE IN BIRDWATCHING – LOCAL AND MIGRATORY BIRDS GALORE IN MAJULI ISLAND – OFFBEAT ASSAM
Majuli is a paradise for birdwatchers and wildlife photographers alike. XYZ from Netherlands, who I travelled with for 12 hours from Jorhat to Kohima, told me that the sheer variety and colors of Kingfishers he had seen in the fields of Majuli left him agape mouthed. I can’t agree more. I too saw many local and migratory birds in Majuli. As we were riding on the bike of Mitu, a huge stork, foraging few feet away from me made me go ‘wow’. I wanted to indulge in birdwatching and bird photography but I was already running short of time and Majuli has a lot of places to see. I promised myself to return for a dedicated bird-watching trip.
VISIT THE MASK MAKING WORKSHOP AND WATCH MASK DANCE TOO – ONLY IN MAJULI ISLAND, OFFBEAT ASSAM
There is only one family which makes the unique masks of Majuli, now known all over the world. The family has been passing on the knowledge and tradition from one generation to other.
I told you it was my lucky day, so I ended up not only observing the artists making the mask with clay, bamboo and cow dung but I also enjoyed the artists getting ready for a mask dance.
Mitu waited patiently as I sat on the floor, making the most of my luck. Turned out, some Indian travelers from Bengal had requested for a mask dance for a fee. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Again.
The dances told stories from Ramayana in a fun and engaging way. The performance was short but a visual delight nonetheless. It was performed not on a clinical stage but in the workshop itself, with dramatic masks in the background.
As a token of appreciation and gratitude, I donated some money in front of the largest statue. It was an unforgettable experience.
WATCH AMAZING SUNSET FROM A SECRET LOCATION – MAJULI ISLAND. OFFBEAT ASSAM:
Mitu took me at a vantage point which offered the best views of sunset in Majuli. I reached early so that I can choose the best place to enjoy the sunset. I chose a rocky platform made only for watching the sun set. I was impressed by an elderly lady who struggled to walk on the uneven path. She was supported by her son and daughter in law. She later got down and sat on an empty boat. I was impressed by her spirit! I am sure she enjoyed it. This is why I love traveling with parents. I am going to use this example on my mother every time she will refuse to travel with me owing to health issues.
I sat on one of the rocks and waited for the sunset. I meditated for some time followed by a walk and absorbing the atmosphere in silence. A boat tied in long distance! Kids playfully taking bath in the river! Local women going about their chores! The unusual patterns of river and soil! The works! And then the magic began. As the sun started to set, the sky burst into a riot of colors.
A boatman lyrically started rowing his boat towards the orange sun. I watched at the seat, numb at my ‘balcony seat’, as if I had bought tickets for a grand theatre performance. Parnashree Devi, my friend from Assam was right, “Sunset in Majuli are not to be missed!”
VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN GUIDE FOR MAJULI ISLAND – OFFBEAT ASSAM
It is very easy to find good vegan and vegetarian food in not only Majuli but most of Assam, when compared to other states of North East India. In my home-stay, I ate a nice vegetarian thali. Rice and daal (lentils) was served with nice cabbage and fried aubergine. I was served bread jam and bananas for breakfast at the home-stay.
Now let’s talk about the food I had on streets and dhabas. Mitu and I had a wonderful vegan thali for lunch at one of the dhabas.(Makeshift restaurant) The thali comprised of a wonderful bamboo chutney, ghughni (matar), aalu bhujia (fried potatoes) and chapattis. I was happy to eat some wheat after a long time as it is not easy to find wheat in North India. Rice is more common here. The cost of thali was just Rs. 40 For evening snack, I ate Ghughni again and vegan noodles (Rs. 40) from the street side cart.
And on the morning when I had some time for my ferry, I ate the very comforting hot ghughni and roti again at the ferry station. I am sure, if you will explore more and ask around you will get many more options. You can write in the comment section if you know a place in Majuli which served great vegan and vegetarian food.
FACILITIES AVAILABLE AT MAJULI ISLAND – OFFBEAT ASSAM
Majuli is a proper town with most of the facilities available. “Do you have police station and crime here? It looks so peaceful. Almost Utopian!”, I asked Manjeet. He replied with a laugh, “Crime rate is very low here. Where will they run away? They will be caught in the ferry!”
Majuli has many ATMS, 2 petrol pumps, clinics, schools, restaurants, many hotels and home stays (Both cemented ones and bamboo ones) and even a barber shop, if you fancy one.
WHERE TO STAY IN MAJULI ISLAND – OFFBEAT ASSAM
I stayed at a lovely home-stay in Assam. My cottage was made entirely from bamboo. It was fun to walk bare feet on the bamboo floor of my room.
Contact Holiday Scout for booking hotels, home stays and guides and activities in Majuli. They are the experts of hassle free trips in North East India.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MAJULI ISLAND – OFFBEAT ASSAM
Winter is a good time if you want to see migratory birds.
HOW TO REACH MAJULI ISLAND – OFFBEAT ASSAM
It is very easy to reach Majuli island. I had boarded a ferry from Nimati Ghat and arrived in Majuli in 1 hour. Nimati Ghat is just 45 minutes and Rs. 35 away from Jorhat via a shared ‘Magic’ van. The ferry to Majuli from Nimati Ghat is Rs. 15. Shared and private cabs are present at Majuli when you disembark from the ferry.
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